A phenomenological study of community gardening : an insider's view of the lived experiences of community gardening participants throughout the growing and non-growing seasons
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This study was carried out with the help of seven research participants at a community garden in the North-west of Ireland. Although research exploring the experiences of community gardening participants is limited, it is broadly acknowledged that community gardens have the capacity to promote positive, physical, social and mental health related outcomes for participants. However, the short Irish growing season and absence of guidelines concerning dormant season engagement limits the potential for these outcomes to be experienced all year round. In response to this I initiated a process of developing a range of new garden features and horticultural craftwork activities at the community garden under study, which would provide stimulation to its members throughout the whole year. The completion of this process paved the way for the execution of a unique study, one which would capture the experiences of participants throughout both the growing and dormant seasons.This study employed a phenomenological research strategy to explore the ‘lived’ seasonal experiences of community gardening participants and to establish what ‘meaning’ can be attached to these experiences. The main findings argue that community gardeners develop a strong sense of connectedness to the garden and to fellow participants and that the social, physical and skills development implications can influence the way participants self-identify. The collaborative efforts involved in developing and maintaining these spaces also fulfil an important function in relation to the promotion of social capital. The findings also demonstrate how dormant season activities can not only complement the growing season experiences in terms of the change of pace, scenery and direction, but also provide real value in terms of the different cognitive and skills development processes involved in carrying out these unique and unfamiliar tasks. This study also explores the transferability of the new dormant season activities to similar settings and provides recommendations for future areas of research.
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